It doesn't matter what the weather is like, there’s really no wrong time to enjoy a nourishing bowl of noodle soup! Today we take a look at two of the world’s most popular noodle and broth dishes: Japanese ramen and Vietnamese pho.
Both of these flavorful and comforting dishes are staples of Asian cuisine, but they have some notable differences. Read on to learn the ingredients, cooking methods, and key differences between these soups—and check out our recipe recommendations!
What is ramen?
Ramen is a Japanese soup dish using noodles of the same name. Ramen noodles are made from wheat flour, water, salt, and kansui (alkaline mineral water). They are yellow in color and have a firm texture.
There are many types of ramen broth and toppings. The component that makes a broth and noodle dish ramen is the type of noodles. The special ingredient that transforms wheat noodles into ramen noodles is the kansui.
Different types of ramen
There are many types of ramen broth (we found nearly 30 in our research!) Some of the most traditional broths are:
- Shoyu ramen: Light brown broth made of soy sauce, water, vegetables, and meat bones.
- Tonkotsu ramen or Hakata ramen: This milky and flavorful broth is made by simmering boiling pork bones over a long period of time. (Sometimes all day!)
- Shio ramen: This pale to golden yellow broth is made from chicken or fish bones and vegetables.
- Miso ramen: Either made with a simple, clear miso broth or by adding miso (fermented soybean paste) to tonkotsu broth.
- Karē (Curry) Ramen: Curry paste is added to shio or shoyu broth for a clear soup or to tonkotsu for a more opaque broth.
How do you make Ramen?
There are three components to making ramen: wheat noodles, broth, and toppings. The process for the broth will vary depending on the type of ramen you are making. Some are simple, while others—like tonkotsu—are a labor of love that takes all day.
Once the soup base is cooked, simply add the noodles and toppings of your choice.
What to add to ramen?
Some common ramen soup toppings include nori (dried seaweed), mushrooms, corn, simmered pork (chashu), soft-boiled egg, kamaboko (fish cake), scallions (or green onion), and bamboo shoots/menma.
Great ramen recipes
This fabulous recipe from The Kitchn takes you step-by-step through making the perfect bowl of ramen from scratch. For a quicker recipe using instant ramen, check out this rich and buttery ramen from New York Times Cooking.
What is pho?
Pho (pronounced “fuh”) is a traditional Vietnamese noodle soup dish consisting of translucent rice noodles in a light, clear broth and topped with an assortment of fresh garnishes. Pho noodles are soft, chewy, and clear in color.
Pho’s amber-colored broth is infused with chicken or beef bones and flavored with charred onion, ginger, star anise, cinnamon, coriander seed, cardamom, cloves, fish sauce, and a bit of sugar. Various cuts of beef or chicken are then cooked in the broth before noodles and toppings are added.
Different types of pho
When ordering pho, your biggest consideration will be the type and cut of meat you want to be added to the bone broth. Chicken (pho ga) and beef (pho bo) are the most common types of pho. There are many options for the cuts of beef, including fatty brisket, flank steak, tripe, tendon, mince, and meatballs.
There are two main types of pho in Vietnam:
- Northern-style (Pho bac): Uses wider noodles and a very light broth. Meat is usually chicken or rare minced beef. Garnished with green onion.
- Southern-style (Pho nam): Uses thinner noodles in a much bolder, more flavorful broth. They use more variety in their garnishes in the South.
How do you make pho?
The main steps for cooking a nourishing bowl of pho are making a broth with beef or chicken bones, cooking your chosen meat slices in the broth, adding the noodles, and garnishing.
What to add to pho?
The most common toppings for pho are meat slices (beef or chicken), bean sprouts, a lime wedge, Thai basil, coriander (cilantro), mint leaves, and jalapeños. Soy sauce, hoisin sauce, fish sauce, Sriracha, and chili oil or paste are often served with pho.
Great pho recipe
This scrumptious, step-by-step recipe for authentic Vietnamese pho from All Recipes uses traditional cooking methods and makes pho accessible for the everyday chef.
Summary: What is the difference between ramen and pho?
Pho and ramen are both delicious noodles soups hailing from Asia, but their similarities end there. Here are the key differences between these delectable dishes:
- Origins: Pho is a Vietnamese noodle dish inspired by French immigrants whereas ramen is a Japanese dish inspired by Chinese immigrants.
- Noodles: Pho is made with rice noodles that are soft and translucent. Ramen is made with wheat noodles that are yellow, firm, and springy.
- Broth: Pho broth is generally clear and lighter in flavor. There are many types of ramen broth, but most are darker (due to soy) and cloudy.
- Main flavors: Pho is flavored with fish sauce, lime, chili, and warming spices (such as cinnamon, clove, and cardamom). Ramen seasonings vary, but the main flavors are soy, miso, and salt.
- Garnish: Pho is served with bean sprouts, lime, herbs, and jalapeño. There are many garnishes for ramen, including chashu, eggs, butter, seaweed, and veggies.
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For more educational food comparisons, check out some of our trending articles in this series:
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q1: What is healthier Ramen or Pho?
A: Pho is generally lower in fat and carbohydrates, and higher in protein. However, it really depends on the type of stock, meat, and toppings used in the dish.
Q2: Are ramen and pho the same?
A: No! While they are both noodle soups, they hail from different countries and have notable differences, including the type of noodles, broth, ingredients, and toppings.
Q3: What has more flavor pho or ramen?
A: Regardless of the type, ramen broth tends to have a stronger taste than pho. This is especially true for certain varieties, such as tonkotsu and miso ramen. Ramen is typically served with heavier and more flavorful toppings as well.